Free potatoes are handed out to those who support the mayor. Scornful insults to those who liked a post about the mayor’s corruption.
Free potatoes are Orbán’s secret election weapon. The method is so primitive and cheap, first world citizens find it unbelievable that it can really happen. But it does: people vote for sacks of potatoes. It has been a major issue during the last couple of elections and the opposition MP who once brought a sack of potatoes to parliament to protest the governing party’s practice was fined by the raging Orbánist house speaker to the tune of 15 thousand euros.
The tiny village of Kisvaszar has only 300 inhabitants but received 1.4 million euros to integrate its gypsy population.
The money was rather curiously spent. The following list is taken from the post of Hungary’s Navalny, the independent MP who is on a quest to reveal methods of corruption (that are otherwise perfectly well-known) even though nothing happens in the wake of his revelations. There is no investigation of Orbánist entities under Orbán, no matter how brazenly they do it and how loudly they brag about it. (The only crook who got caught cost the career of a number of prosecutors who pushed the ball into the hands of the courts, despite the consequences they suffered.)
So the 1.4 million euros poured into this tiny village was spent as follows:
- One gypsy family was promised that their house will be renovated if they give it to the village and rent it back thereafter. They handed over their house but not even the renovation took place. They received a few buckets of paint, a boiler, a washing machine, a wood-burning stove and three windows – and a big, cheerful EU sign nailed to their wall that says that they were the beneficiaries of the program called “With you – For you. Eliminating segregated life situations” The mayor claimed they ran out of money.
- Which is odd because they claim to have spent 700 thousand euros on renovating two houses and building another seven – wildly segregated in the end of the gypsy ghetto (there is a part of every village inhabited exclusively by gypsies).
- The seven 40 sqm houses were built at twice the price of buying new homes in the middle of a nearby city.
- Another 700 thousand euros were spent on the usual swindle: workshops. Florist, herb collector, kitchen hand training for gypsies at the cost of 13 thousand euros per person. That’s steep even if they threw in “legal counselling, debt management and employment advice” to the forever grateful recipients. I almost forgot the “almost half a thousand community creating events“. Those are always fun.
- Naturally, many classes never even took place, the recipients were just asked to sign the sheets. The trainers were friends and family of the local VIP with hourly fees that normally only expensive lawyers command.
- The family that talked to the anti-corruption MP came under pressure and threats.
Because the exposure and dependence of the poor locals doesn’t end at not getting a share of dumb EU subsidies and never getting desegregated nor integrated. No one who needs EU funds or deserves it can ever get it, that’s a given. But much worse can happen to the locals if they speak up. They can lose their public work and thus their eligibility to unemployment benefit. A pittance, for sure, but that makes them even more exposed – and not more likely to vote against Orbán in punishment (as well-fed and spoiled first worlders imagine).
These poor villagers were punished where it really hurts them: they didn’t get free potatoes when the mayor was handing it out. When asked by the interviewer why someone was given potatoes and they weren’t, they innocently recount that those who are close to the mayor did get potatoes, but those who liked the MPs post about the mayor’s suspected corruption were told to go home and eat meat instead. If they can.
Featured image: Ákos Hadházy, the anti-corruption MP in a “renovated” house and next to the sign that says that the EU paid 700 thousand euros for this. (Facebook)